India's Christian leaders are putting pressure on the government to stop a tide of violence against Christian workers in the wake of the September 23 gang rape of four nuns in Madhya Pradesh State.

The assault occurred after 15 to 20 men dragged four Catholic nuns—all under age 35 and from Tamil Nadu—from their convent. One of the men earlier had feigned sickness in an unsuccessful effort to coax the nuns outside. The nuns operate a medical clinic as part of the work of their order, the Foreign Missionary Sisters.

Suspecting an attack, they barricaded themselves in the convent's chapel, but later opened the doors when the men assured them there would be no violence. The gang rapes then occurred in a nearby field.

Police arrested five people the following day. Christian leaders are pressing the government to protect religious minorities, noting a rise in anti-Christian attacks. Archbishop Alan de Lastic wrote a strongly worded letter to the nation's president warning that the Christian community is "feeling insecure and disturbed at this increasing violence against them." Protestants make up a third of India's 25 million Christians.

The attack came two weeks after the first National Consultation on Reconciliation, Religious Liberty, and Social Justice convened by the Evangelical Fellowship of India. More than 150 Protestant church leaders warned, "If we keep sowing the wind of hatred we shall reap the whirlwind of violence and destruction. The hatred, often spread by religious leaders, has already caused incalculable suffering to the families of the victims of riots, terrorism and religious persecution."

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